A wintertime must: Find a friend with a pond _lowres

Photo provided by KEITH HORCASITAS Fishermen like Keith Horcasitas, yes, this is a 'selfie,' are taking to ponds to catch fish in early February mostly because they don't have to worry about fighting the strong predominately north winds blowing across south Louisiana during most of the first days of this month. Ponds clear faster after rains than do bayous, rivers and open-water lakes, and water in ponds warm faster than other areas. Horcasitas caught bluegill like this one and several sac-a-lait on this trip to a pond in Baton Rouge.

There are folks with big boats, little boats and no boats at all.

There are fishermen who like deep water and some who like shallow water.

Then there are pond fishermen: No boat, no problem.

Other than buying a place with a pond, the only problem is to have enough close friends with ponds, or have access to one, so as not to wear out your welcome in any one place.

With what’s settled over most all of Louisiana recently — heavy winds, bluebird skies and high barometric pressure — fishing ponds is more than just another option. Ponds just might be the only places where the fish will bite.

Most ponds don’t sustain the blistering strong north winds most other south Louisiana waters endure. And the fish don’t face the relocation problems their brethren face when wind moves volumes of water around and from lakes, bayous and rivers.

Pond fish don’t have anywhere else to go, so it’s not much a problem knowing if the fish moved, because there’s only two places to go, to the deepest water in the pond, or to remain along drop-offs waiting for the next warm spell to get the baitfish moving.

Ponds also warm faster than “wild” waters. While it’s true that the wind-blown bank on any pond tends to muddy up, it doesn’t take nearly as long for the water to settle and clear as nearby bayous, rivers and lakes.

And it’s easy to understand that clearer water in any pond will warm faster than the muddy, windswept waters. All of which means that warmer water means species like bass, sac-a-lait and bluegills, even catfish, species which dominate the fish stocks of freshwater ponds will be quicker to put on the feed-bag than the far reaches of the Verret Basin, the Florida Parishes rivers and the open marshes, places that attract the bulk of the freshwater fishermen in late winter.

After securing access to a pond, and there are public ponds and small lakes in community parks across the southern parishes — and most are stocked — there’s little more you need these days other than a light-action rod and reel, a couple of corks, split shot, small hooks and nightcrawlers or worms you can find in the backyard garden to fill the urge to catch a fish, or two and sometimes many more.

Of course, there are the ponds where you can tote the well-stocked tackle box and go after bass with spinnerbaits and any of your favorite hard-plastic and soft-plastic lures. For panfish, there’s Beetle Spins in your favorite color and a variety of tube-jig colors which, when worked under a cork, will catch bluegill and sac-a-lait.

The trick is to find out which part of the pond is holding fish. Expect fish to be deep in the dead of winter, then work from there. Sunny days trigger feeding periods, if only because warmer water increases the activity of shiners and minnows, which, in turn, warms the predator species to break the fast winter’s cold forces on them.

One way to know if a pond is warming is to check out the nearby barren trees that shed leaves months ago. If you see buds on the end of branches, you know the earth surrounding the tree is warm enough to trigger new growth, and means the water in the pond is warming, too.

One tip passed along years ago by fly-bug mogul Tony Accardo — may God rest his soul — was to look at the pond before making the first cast. If you see action on the surface, minnows moving at your approach, a crawfish flittering away from the bank, the dapple a bluegill makes when sucking down an insect, then you know you might want to try a topwater bug or plug. It’s an indication that fish have awakened from cold-weather lethargy.

Anything else, and you’re going to have to go deeper and work baits more slowly.

More oysters

State Health and Hospitals announced Wednesday the reopening of Oyster Harvest Areas 2, 3 and 4 on the east side of the Mississippi River. A red tide in that area in early December forced DHH to close seven oyster harvesting areas. Areas 5, 6 and 7 were reopened in January, but Area 1 remains closed.

LDWF needs instructors

State Wildlife and Fisheries’ program manager Alayna McGarry is offering a no-fee Aquatic Volunteer Instructor workshop Wednesday in hopes of filling openings for instructors.

The workshop is set for The Towers in Slidell, and LDWF biologists will fill out the eight-hour instruction covering fishing techniques, fisheries management, knot-tying, fish tagging and fish identification, among others.

McGarry said the the hands-on workshop will teach “potential volunteers how to coordinate their own aquatic education program ... and provide certified volunteers access to loaner kits. Rods, reels and basic tackle are just some of the items available for instructional use at events. Educational pamphlets and brochures are also offered to volunteers upon certification.”

Call McGarry at (504) 286-4050 or email: amcgarry@wlf.la.gov with questions and to register. Details of the workshop and a schedule of other workshops can be found on the LDWF’s website: www.fishla.org/ldwf-volunteer-programs.

Itawamba upset

So it wasn’t on the football field, or the court, or on a diamond, but that didn’t mean Russ Johnson and Hunter Schrock of Itawamba Community College in Mississippi enjoyed beating a team from the University of Alabama any less.

Johnson and Schrock came through two tough days that would have broken other fishermen to edge the Alabama’s team of John Davis and Payton McGinnis by four ounces in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Southern Regional presented by Bass Pro Shops on Lake Martin near Alexander City, Alabama.

Here’s what happened: Johnson and Schrock locked the keys inside their truck and had to pry the door open with a tree limb on Thursday’s first tournament day. A bad wheel bearing nearly cost them their boat trailer on the second day, and forced them to beg a friend to borrow a boat for Saturday’s final round.

Johnson and Schrock caught five bass weighing 14 pounds, 8 ounces for a three-day total of 35-9. After leading the near 100 team field through the first two days, the Alabama crew finished with 35-5.